Clubs blow off the cobwebs in first hitouts for season

BEFORE the practice match, comes the practice-practice match.

AFLW clubs around the country organised games and match simulation among themselves before next weekend's official pre-season match.

They were played with varying levels of intensity and structure, as the clubs could negotiate conditions among themselves.

Some played three thirds, others the traditional four quarters, while North Melbourne and Collingwood were so keen to get as much match play in as possible, they opted for sixths.

The Carlton v St Kilda scratch match was closed, with the clubs choosing not to publish any information about what played out, while Gold Coast v Brisbane was washed out due to some wet and wild weather.

Fans will get the opportunity to see their clubs in action on the weekend of January 25-26, before the season starts in earnest on February 7.

ADELAIDE v GWS

The reigning premiers fielded a young line-up against Greater Western Sydney and went down 5.8 (38) to 3.3 (21) in a regulation four-quarter match.

Adelaide led at half-time by five points but was outscored four goals to one in the second half.

Without injured skipper Chelsea Randall, Sarah Allan is expected to take on a lot of the load in defence, and the 22-year-old was named best for the Crows for her spoiling and rebound work.

Sophie Li was busy on the wing, while the ruck was shouldered by newbies Montana McKinnon and Caitlin Gould.

Coach Matthew Clarke was pleased with his eight new players.

"I thought Jaimi Tabb had some great moments, really good pressure, Caitlin Gould and Montana McKinnon got in the air in the ruck and followed up really well, Nicole Campbell did some nice things out of the back half, as did Maddi Newman," Clarke said.

"Courtney Gum showed that she is going to be a solid contributor, Najwa Allen ran through the middle and was able to kick a goal while Chelsea Biddell looked comfortable down back."

Those on the sidelines included ACL trio Erin Phillips, Chloe Scheer and Rhiannon Metcalfe, and senior players Ebony Marinoff (fractured finger, but hopeful to play next week), Jess Foley, Marijana Rajcic and Renee Forth (all managed).

For the Giants, the acquisition of young talent Jess Allan has posed an interesting ruck dilemma, and she split the duties with Erin McKinnon and Ingrid Nielsen.

Second-year midfielder Alyce Parker looks ready to take another step in her development with a very consistent game, while Bec Beeson kicked a nice goal in the third term.

Cora Staunton made a successful return from a nasty broken leg suffered in May with a typically strong performance up forward (two goals), fellow Irishwoman Yvonne Bonner was a constant threat forward of centre and draftee Sarah Halvorsen was impressive in her first game for the club

NORTH MELBOURNE v COLLINGWOOD

North Melbourne and Collingwood had a unique set-up, with each team taking charge of two sixths each to practice what they wanted, and a final two sixths played under normal match conditions.

The Pies had a fairly young line-up in place, with star recruit Brianna Davey cooling her heels on the sidelines in preparation for round one.

While no official score was kept, the Roos comfortably outscored the Pies.

Young duo Lauren Butler (19) and Alana Porter (18) caught the eye in defence, while Irish pair Aishling Sheridan (playing forward and midfield) and Sarah Rowe were impressive throughout.

The usual Magpie suspects of Jaimee Lambert, Ash Brazill and Steph Chiocci were also strong.

One of North Melbourne's Irish recruits, Aileen Gilroy, shone off half-back, while draftee Sarah Wright was consistent on the wing and in defence.

"We needed to get a little bit out of it from a structural point-of-view, and I thought we ticked the box with that," North coach Scott Gowans told the club website.

"Just with different types of ball movement and stoppage structures, different set-ups down back … six terms allow you to do that.

"I'm really, really happy with what we got out of it."

FREMANTLE v WEST COAST

Fremantle was victorious over West Coast, although no final margin was recorded.

It was a slightly different Dockers line-up to what was seen in 2019, with Gabby O'Sullivan named captain for the game.

Eighteen-year-old draftee Bianca Webb was given the job on ex-Dockers star Dana Hooker, while Katie-Jayne Grieve, Leah Mascall and Jasmin Stewart (in line to debut in her second season) were strong in the midfield.

Sabreena Duffy (four goals) and Gemma Houghton (two) hit the scoreboard, while former tennis player Janelle Cuthbertson put her hand up for a round one berth with a strong lockdown role in defence.

Irishwoman Aine Tighe led the ruck division, supported by draftees Mim Strom and the high-flying 170cm Roxy Roux.

They came up against Eagle Danika Pisconeri, whose strong WAFLW form seems to have continued into this year.

The defensive trio of McKenzie Dowrick, rugby union convert Mhicca Carter and Emily McGuire (last seen as a Fremantle key forward in 2018) held firm under immense pressure.

Small forwards Imahra Cameron and Tarnee Tester were dangerous around goal, while Irish sisters Niamh and Grace Kelly didn't look out of place in their first competitive hitout.

West Coast's Courtney Guard gets a handball away against her old team

GEELONG v MELBOURNE

The Cats and the Demons had an interesting set-up, focusing on match simulation rather than a game.

Played over three terms, it was a mix of general game play and situation-relevant set-ups, with the teams at one point taking turns to rebound out of defence.

In terms of the raw number of goals kicked, Melbourne had the edge, but it wasn't a focus of the day, with senior coaches Paul Hood and Mick Stinear taking an active role in directing proceedings.

With Tegan Cunningham, Daisy Pearce and Karen Paxman among those sitting out the session, Demons draftee Jackie Parry looked promising at full-forward, while draftee Krstel Petrevski led hard across half-forward and Maddy Gay dominated the middle.

Demon Krstel Petrevski is tackled by Geelong's Madeline Keryk

The Dees promoted a player from their VFLW side to play in the ruck in the absence of Lauren Pearce, with Shelley Scott also taking some throw-ins up forward.

For the Cats, Nina Morrison, Melissa Hickey and Olivia Purcell all sat out the affair, but trained separately on the sidelines. All are on track to play round one.

Phoebe McWilliams was a good focal point, while Meg McDonald showed she has lost none of her touch after sitting out the winter season with a stress fracture in her foot, taking numerous intercepts.

Young Cats Denby Taylor, Sophie Van De Heuvel and Becky Webster got plenty of the footy.

Phoebe McWilliams marks strongly in front of Gabby Colvin

RICHMOND v WESTERN BULLDOGS

Richmond came out firing early, but a mid-game fadeout in the second and third terms proved costly, losing to the Western Bulldogs 8.9 (57) to 3.1 (19) over five periods of game play.

The Dogs looked incredibly sharp, with clear structures and clean ball movement throughout the game.

Izzy Huntington spent some time behind the ball where her marking skills came to the fore, while Kirsten McLeod was a constant threat whether inside 50 or on the wing.

Key forward Deanna Berry looks set to take her game to another level in the absence of Katy Brennan. Talent has never been an issue for Berry, but it was her consistency and second efforts that stood out.

Issy Grant showed a clean pair of heels rotating between forward and the midfield, and No.1 draftee Gabby Newton made a few skill errors but found plenty of it playing in the centre. 

For the Tigers, Courtney Wakefield will be a handful at full-forward, with very strong hands and a physical presence.

Sabrina Frederick took a few solid marks at centre half-forward, Alice Edmonds was a steady presence in the ruck and young midfielder Sophie Molan was busy throughout.

The issue for Richmond was clearing it out of its defensive half. When the Tigers got on a roll with fast game play (usually led by Akec Makur Chuot and Phoebe Monahan), they looked very dangerous, but those moments didn't happen as much as they would have liked.

Brennan played two of five terms on the ball and was rested around that, with Monique Conti not playing (basketball commitments).

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